On Positive Reinforcement and Growth Mindset

I feel very passionately about this topic. If you would, please read.

Now you might be thinking… didn’t you just write about the idea that not everyone should get a trophy? Why yes I did. And by that, I meant we shouldn’t reward complacency and people who just show up, (or don’t for that matter). We should see failure as an opportunity for learning and growth, and approach it as such.

But this concept is a little different.

What I’m talking about here is not just about feeling good. It’s more about showing support and developing individuals with positive reinforcement. I’m talking to you, teachers, leaders, coaches, and mentors. I’m talking to myself as well. It’s a practiced skill to be quite honest. And there is plenty of evidence to support the idea that positive feedback leads to positive change faster than pointing out all the negatives, or worse, belittling someone to get your point across.

But here’s a key piece: I am not saying there isn’t a place for constructive feedback. There absolutely is. But it should help develop a growth mindset. It should also come with a “try again”, and “you got this” mentality, and importantly, “I believe in you”! You’re just not there yet.

Praise for effort, not grades or goals scored. Science says gains will be made faster. Please watch this 5-minute video on praise for intelligence vs effort: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWv1VdDeoRY

Not only should we give positive feedback, but it should be tailored to the individual. Pay attention. Identify individuals’ unique strengths (we ALL have them). Make someone feel: I SEE you! Slow down, and tune in. It’s so worth it!

For a little context: I grew up as an athlete, and am now a nurse, a leader, a teacher, and a newly minted and totally novice assistant coach. I’m a mom with athletic kids. I always heard: Nurses eat their young (been there, done that, no thanks!). I’ve watched my kids and their experiences. I’ve seen coaches berate and belittle kids and tell 10-year-old children that a game loss was one person’s fault (my kid received that feedback) and that her mistakes would result in karma. Yuck! Soul-crushing, tear-provoking incidents! Conversely, I have had some incredible mentors and role models in my life, as have my children. I am happy to report that those great humans far outnumber the bad apples.

Here are a couple examples:

As a nurse, I’ve made mistakes. Thankfully, none where a patient or colleague got hurt, but there was potential. Sadly, it happens. After one scary incident with a potentially violent patient, I had a boss who pulled me aside, discussed my role in the incident, and where I could have done better. I should have called in support, but I didn’t. Did she belittle me? Nope. Write me up? Nope. She talked to me, calmly and with reassurance. She knew intuitively that I beat myself up plenty, thank you very much, and that I’d never make the same mistake again. She treated me like a respected colleague, and an adult for that matter. In turn, I worked harder, did better, and respected her immensely for it. I still hold her in the highest esteem.

My oldest daughter started out in her favorite sport at age 11 (late starter). Some kids were hard on her, and some people indicated that’s too late to start. But she had a coach that believed in her. Cheered her on. Told her he believed in her! She’s found her passion, and is on her way to a lifetime of enjoying the sport. I will always be grateful to him. I could go on with the examples for days, but I’ll spare you.

Importantly: (Parents listen up!!!) You must also role model this behavior towards yourself. Never, ever say “I suck” or “I’m fat” or “I’ll never be able to ____” in front of your kids. Never. Do not make similar comments of others. 100%, I promise you, your kids will repeat the negative self-talk and talking down to others. You think it’s funny? I assure you it is not. All you fans of sarcasm (yep, me too) we can debate this topic if you like, but in my book, negative self-talk is never productive, and can also have lasting harmful effects on our children. Am I perfect at this? Nope. Working on it! Just remember to say “not yet“.

Moral of the story? People will rise to the occasion. Believe in them? They will act accordingly. Cut them down? It won’t go so well. Ok maybe for a brief moment they’ll seem like they’re working harder. Maybe they’ll submit their work on time, or run a little faster. But is fear-driven behavior a good thing? I can guarantee you it’s not. And you know the worst part? When they become the boss or the coach, they’ll treat others the same. Your actions can have a massive ripple effect.

As often as I can, I like to share the research I’m familiar with.

Brain Games- Jason silva “The Power of Positivity.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO1kgl0p-Hw

Carol Dweck, research on the Growth Mindset, and the Power of Yet. She has many YouTube videos, so hard to pick just one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X0mgOOSpLU

Ps. Look at the picture of the kid in the featured image of the blog. See his joy and excitement for football and probably life? Parents, teachers, mentors: Lets work to keep it that way.

2211: The Universe is Talking

The Universe has infinite wisdom and is there to guide us to our highest potential. All we just have to do is pay attention, and believe. This one might get a little “woo woo” so if that’s not your thing, it’s all good by me. And if you prefer, insert God, or spiritual being, or whatever you like for “Universe”.

So on to today’s thoughts.

Well, that was interesting… I started today’s post, unsure of exactly where to take it. Should I title it “I am vs. I want”? Should I talk about the power of meditation, identifying emotions that do not serve, and then letting them go? I’ll come back to those topics at another time I’m sure. Today, I felt compelled to write but was unsure what to hone in on.

And then, the Universe decided on a topic for me. I stepped away from my computer for lunch and returned to see the title “2211” saved as a draft. Hmm… I thought. I must have accidentally hit a couple numbers on my keyboard. That is strange. What the heck, I’ll look it up.

I typed “2211” in my search bar and all the results pointed to 2211 as an “Angel Number”. My search showed things like: The angels are aware and grateful for your efforts, and You will be presented with new opportunities for new beginnings, improved relationships, and positive thinking. “Use this invitation to explore new ways of thinking and to remain open to changing our habits, thoughts, and perspective. Use the opportunity to connect with your spiritual self and change your mindset”, another website said. I’m sure a numerologist or another expert could state this more clearly. But in any case: Sounds good! Let’s do it!

You may be thinking… ok so you bumped a couple numbers on your keyboard. So what? Part of me is thinking the same thing. But here’s the other part of the story. This week, I’ve been doing some work around making some positive changes, and have incorporated (or tried at least) daily meditation to focus on those changes. This morning, in particular, I did a powerful (like the move you to tears kind) meditation. I am focusing on thoughts and behaviors that do not serve me, and ones that have been recurrent and ingrained for years. Stuff I really want to change so I can show up in the world as a better human being. I’ve asked the Universe to guide me, and am trusting the process. And I think I’m getting some answers. Earlier today, I had a surprise and MUCH welcomed schedule changed that allowed me to focus on what’s important: my health and wellness, and my family.

And now, 2211 presents itself to me. For me, the jury’s still out on “signs” like this one. But what I do believe for certain is that there is immense, immeasurable value in tuning in to your surroundings, your gut, and your heart. I’ve talked about this before and will probably talk about it again. If we move through life in habitual, unconscious ways, with thoughts that do not serve us, the results will be predictable. We will be unfulfilled, unhappy, unhealthy, checked out and numb. If we work towards using a more conscious, tuned-in approach, with a positive mindset, and then act upon the information that is presented to us, life will show us its beauty in ways we never could have dreamed of.

Today is not the first time I’ve experienced something like this. There have been several times in my life where I’ve asked and received: Needed a job change, asked the questions and something beyond my wildest dreams was offered. This has actually happened to me three times in different ways. Was injured, asked the Universe “why” and “show me a sign” and my life was set on a totally different and definitely better path. Needed some additional money, asked the questions, and was presented with options outside of what I’d ever conceived. You get the idea.

I ask you friends: What can you do today to tune in pay attention and use the information to your advantage. Is it a meditation? A walk in the woods? A “yes” somewhere in your life or a “no”? A conversation with a friend? Whatever gets you there, that’s up to you. Tune in and let me know the results! I am so curious and can’t wait to hear! Tell me about times in the past when you’ve asked and received and I’ll do the same.

Today, my entire day was shifted because of one, 15-minute meditation. If we could tune in and deeply listen, and BELIEVE it’s possible, even 10% of the time, imagine the possibilities!

Need more science, less “woo woo”? Check out the research on neuroplasticity, epigenetics and quantum law. Dr. Joe Dispenza is a fantastic source of information as well

On Raising Kids as Resilient Individuals: Why does everyone get a trophy?

Pretty sure I’m going to get some opposition to this one, but stick with me ok? As usual, I welcome opposing views! My opinionated side is coming out here, so buckle up, or scroll on, your choice. I listened to an interesting podcast this week that got me thinking about parenting, some things I’m proud of, some I can do better, some parenting methods our society I am fond of, and some, I am not. It may sound contradictory, but hopefully, I can articulate my point well enough that it will not. I am not a perfect parent, and never will be, but have certainly learned a thing or two, which I’ll share here.

First: Let’s start by talking about individualism. I am a firm believer that everyone, yes everyone, has been given special and unique talents in this world, and that they have an opportunity (responsibility?) to share them. It can take some time to find that niche, and might come with some growing pains, but it is oh so worth it. Parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches and community members: YOU have an opportunity to build our kids up. That shy award kid in the corner? She might be the president of the United States one day. Talk to her, see what she’s interested in. That kid who dresses just a little differently than the rest? A phase? Who cares?! Great! Compliment their choices. We need differences in the world. (And by the way, I totally screwed up with my oldest daughter on that topic. I did not support her fashion choices during a certain phase, and if you’re reading this, I’m sorry). Uniformity is boring and doesn’t foster creative thinking or forward progress. Kids need our support, our love, and our guidance, especially when they stumble. And they need us to SHOW UP and be good role models. Me in kindergarten: TERRIFIED to go to school. Like physically ill at times. School phobia is apparently a thing. And you know what? It took just one amazing teacher to pull me out of my shell. She talked to me. She believed in me. I think I’m doing pretty ok now. You can be that person for someone.

Next: The concept of the trophy. The trophy is a metaphor and I’ll primarily discuss sports, but this can be applied in any area of life. Why oh why does everyone get a trophy all the time? Let me start by saying I LOVE me a trophy! I am super competitive, and I like to win. I like it when my kids’ teams win, and my teams win (go Jayhawks!). It’s fun and exciting. Sports, grades, performances, what have you, I think it’s worth celebrating hard work and success. BUT. Loss or failure isn’t the end of the world. It should be celebrated too. In fact, failure usually presents the best opportunity for learning and growth (and for you sports fans, the opportunity to develop great sportsmanship). And sometimes, oftentimes, failure results in a change better than you could have imagined. For example, take the kid that didn’t make the (insert sport) team. It can be heartbreaking for the kid, and the parent. Cry, be sad, be mad, that’s fine and great and understandable. But then move on. It’s all in how you handle it. Take it as a time to explore other opportunities. Perhaps getting cut from the team leads to an opportunity to participate in something else, and that something else is a life-long passion, the best thing ever! I’ve seen it happen, please believe it can happen! Hang in there, it will!

Don’t believe me? Hey you: Adult. Think back to a time when you lost, got fired, royally screwed something up, or said something you couldn’t take back. In the moment, it’s not fun. Sometimes REALLY not fun. It can cause self-doubt, shame, guilt, anxiety, and cause “what-if”-ing until the cows come home. Been there done that. But I’d venture to say, that if you look back at the times in your life when things didn’t go as planned, those might be the times you learned and grew the most. I can say without a doubt that’s true for me.

Showing up, having fun, working hard, trying hard, being part of a team, learning to work with others, learning to motivate yourself: all good things! Let’s keep it positive! Then why shouldn’t every kid get a trophy, you ask? Because we lose the opportunity to learn and grow. Because if we give a medal, trophy, or certificate, every time someone participates in something (or doesn’t for that matter), we are not building resilient humans with unique strengths. The word NEEDS people who show up fully, using their own beautiful, creative, and differing talents. Further, if we don’t let our kids try and fail, how are they going to learn to move through adversity in life? How will they find their passion? If our kids get out of high school and never had to work for anything, were never told “no”, or never failed at anything, how do you think “adulting” is going to go for them? Let your imagination run wild. I’m guessing the boss isn’t going to give praise for simply showing up to work every day, or showing up just when you feel like it. Perhaps I’m showing my generation, we’re notorious workaholics. I do believe in the value of hard work and dedication. I am not suggesting that slaving away for 40, 50, 60+ hours a week is the answer. And, in no way am I suggesting that we should demean a five-year-old who makes a mistake at a soccer game. That’s a whole other posting, and if that’s the take-home, then I’ve failed at making my point. I am simply suggesting that we say: “Did you have fun? Great. Lose? That’s great too (did you learn something?), and go get ’em next time and have some more fun!” Kids: Do what lights YOUR fire, not your parents’ fire.

To summarize: I believe that we can and should be kind, celebrate and build people up for their unique talents, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. Yay individuality and diversity! I do not believe the way to develop a healthy, resilient, functioning individual is to coddle, over-protect, shield, and hand out a plethora of trophies. To develop resilient individuals, there has to be a combination of love and support, and learning and growing from our mistakes.

Don’t be afraid of failure, my friends. Keep going, keep trying and keep working towards the best and most resilient version of you. Do what matters to you! Try hard, and screw it up, why not? Be fearless! Be an example for your kids, pick yourself back up, and help them do the same. Take it from MJ:

The place in the middle. “Balance” is B.S.

In the middle of what, you ask?

In the middle of the should’s, the busyness, the must-do’s, the to-do list, alllll the responsibilities, and the happy place. The self-care. The relationships and the love. There is a beautiful place that sometimes, just sometimes, seems attainable. The days, weeks, or months, when most things, (not everything, because that’s not realistic) but most things get accomplished, productivity is high and also we’ve found time for self-care, connection, fun, and community. Doesn’t that sound nice? I’d like to live in that happy place! A pipe dream? Maybe, but I believe sometimes we can find a place in the middle. And every day, “the middle” looks just a little different.

How the heck do we balance it all? One thing I’ve figured out for myself FOR SURE, is that true balance is impossible. The phrase (which I’ve said many times in the past) “I’m trying to find work-life balance” now makes me cringe. The idea of “balance” is B.S. Chasing that idea only creates unrealistic expectations and sets us up for disappointment and self-criticism. I “should” be able to handle it all, I “should” do this, that, or the other, or all of it simultaneously. Ha. Life will truly never be balanced. One thing or another will always take priority. And that’s ok! And great! The “should’s” and “want to’s”, leave us feeling empty, disconnected, or disappointed if we don’t get it all done.

Ok, well then what? Well then… figure out what makes the most sense for you, today, or this hour, or this minute. Life is a series of thoughts, decisions, and actions. It’s all about choice, prioritization, and being present. Each day, each hour, and each moment provides another opportunity to consider what matters most to you, and how you want to spend your time. Yes, of course, we all have responsibilities, some of which matter more than others. As I sit here writing this, I have 17 other things on my to-do list that I probably “should” be doing. And I will. But in this moment, I wanted to write. It’s been awhile. And it fills me up. So, in this moment, I choose to write and the rest can wait.

Ok, well then what if all things don’t get done? What if I’m not doing enough self-care? How do I pick? What if, what if, what if. Well, then what if? So what? What happens if you didn’t get it all done? Did the world end? I doubt it. Is the house messy? Maybe. Mine is. Did you have fun today, is your bucket filled up? I sure hope so! If you consider your choices and things didn’t go as planned, that’s ok, that’s great! Guess what? You probably learned something and can take that with you the next time you get to make a choice – which will be today. Just don’t dwell on what didn’t get done, or what went wrong.

THE KEY, no matter how you choose to prioritize your time is this: CHOOSE something, and then 1. Actually DO it. Do the thing, make the call, spend the time. Do not: procrastinate, overthink, worry, get distracted, numb, or scroll (I know you know what I mean). Just do it (insert Nike swoosh). 2. Perhaps most importantly, OWN it. Past thinking and regret serve no one. Not you, not anyone, ever. Give yo-self a damn break! Treat yourself kindly, like you would a friend. Learn, move on and do better. Worried future thinking causes anxiety. Trust me I’m familiar with this one. Own your choices, be proud, and move the f on. Perhaps that confidence is something that comes with a few trips around the sun. But the earlier you can realize everyone is just doing the best they can, and people are more worried about getting through their own day (and not focused on your every move) the better your life will be. I promise.

Hang in there friends. I see you. We’re all in this crazy boat together, and I hope you have a great day. Get some shit done, take care of yourself, and enjoy whatever “the middle” (or left or right of center) looks like for you today.

When it’s not Rainbows and Sunshine, Feeling All the Feels

So far, much of what I’ve written about has been about engaging in life in a positive way. Tuning in, engaging, seeing the positive, sharing our experiences, and contributing to the world in a meaningful way. But let’s face it: Life is not all Rainbows and Sunshine. We aren’t always #livingourbestlife #blessed (read: sarcasm). Every single person you know has been through something hard, stressful, and probably, traumatic. They’re probably going through something right now. Life is stressful. Sometimes that stress is “good stress” (a promotion or new job for example) and sometimes life throws us really shitty shit! I’ve been there, you’ve been there too.

We’ve all heard the phrase, that goes something like: Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react. While I totally agree with that statement, “reacting” in a positive way does not mean ignoring, numbing it, stuffing it down, “bright siding” it, or exhibiting toxic positivity. Ok, you say, but isn’t that easier? Yep. Sure is. But ONLY temporarily.

First, I’ll share my opinion and personal experience on the topic, and then, I’ll nerd out with a bit of research.

In terms of sharing emotions, we are shut down. Its always been really ironic to me that we greet each other with “How are you”? and we most often respond “Good! How are you?!” or “I’m great!”. I think that social norm is odd and disingenuous. Call me an over-sharer, oh well. But do you really mean “I’m good!”? Most of the time, I bet you’d rather say something like… “Well, I’m stressed, I’ve got a lot going on but I’m doing my best. I could really use a friend and an ear… “. I realize 1. That’s the unfortunate American “busyness” norm. and 2. It’s not always practical to have deep conversations. 3. There is a time and a place. Not everyone wants to hear it, and not everyone is close enough to be “safe” to share with. My feeling, though, is that if we were all a little more real with each other, we would feel a greater sense of community, love, and support. We could move mountains.

Here’s my honest truth. I’ve dealt with stress and trauma in ALL the ways: ignore, numb, shove it down, scream, get angry, cry, sad, mad, anxious, depressed, exercise, meditate, turn to a friend or family member, counseling, coaching, journal, exercise, meditate, read, dance and sing. And cussing. Lots and lots of cussing which I highly recommend :). Ok maybe I haven’t resorted to physical violence (except, sorry pillow) but other than that, I’ve tried them all on for size, and one size does not fit all. What I’ve learned is that no matter how you cope, you’ve gotta feel all the feels and ALSO choose some healthy strategies or your body will let you know you’re off course. Back pain without injury? Headaches? Palpitations? Weight gain? Hmmm… maybe I should pay attention.

A strategy I’m actively working on (subject to revision, I’m sure):

  1. Acknowledge it! Whatever IT is.. admit, acknowledge, accept its existence. Acceptance does not mean you LIKE it, it just means you know it’s happening.
  2. Feel it in whatever way works for you. Breathe, cry, laugh, journal, run, talk, but FEEL it! Not always fun, but always necessary.
  3. Breathe some more. Use the breath to choose a path of non-reactivity.
  4. Let it go. No, I didn’t say forget, numb, or stuff it down. Just let it go.
  5. Identify healthy coping mechanisms, whatever works for you. “Self-care” is a popularized and over-used term. But really, take care of you.
  6. Life throws another stressor, repeat.

Here’s a bit of nerdy research. Enjoy.

More on Being All-In: Tuning in with Curiosity and Wonder

I’ll give you the punch line: The world becomes a magical place.

In a previous entry, “On Being All In”, I described the value of tuning in during daily interactions, and manifestation. For the past 24 hours, I put that into action, and guess what? The world showed me some pretty magical things. I am happy to report that tuning in is becoming less a conscious action, and more an innate habit. I’ve tried to approach it in a non-judgemental fashion, full of simple curiosity, and awe and wonder for the world around me. Remove fear, lean in. You’ll be amazed at what is revealed to you. My hope, most sincerely, is that anyone reading this will give it a try, and if so inclined, talk about your experience with anyone who will listen. Pick me! 🙂

Yes, it takes practice. However, I believe with a little effort, we can all live in the realm of “tuned in”, and live in a state of more love, more magic, and less fear. Sound a little hokey? A little “woo woo”? A little too much “sunshine and rainbows”? Maybe. Just give it a try and see. If it’s not for you, that’s cool too.

So here’s the example:

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to travel a couple hours from home, through the beautiful mountains of Colorado to perform live music. Before the show, I set up camp at an amazing small town orchard, which seemed like a fairy tale. Peach and apple orchards, a mountain backdrop, kids on swings, flowers, live music, a deli, local goods, and just the coolest vibe. A little summertime piece of heaven on earth.

For the gig, we were at a small town rodeo, which was a mix of people who just wanted to enjoy their evening. The day was long, uncomfortably hot, and (as usual) there were a few hiccups during sound check and during the show. BUT. I let all that go, and here’s what happened: I enjoyed the people, the food trucks, the local merchants, the bandmates, and the crowd was a blast and danced the night away. The stage and sunset were breathtaking. Although we didn’t leave until midnight, I had more energy and less physical pain (think stiff cowboy boots on stage for three straight hours) than most shows before.

The next morning, (although tired after a late night and camping in my car), I woke up early, got on the road, and enjoyed a little of the local flavor. I stopped at an incredible, eclectic bakery for breakfast and took it all in. I tuned into all the people, every detail. It would have been easy to take the food to go or to sit down and start scrolling. NOPE. I put the phone down. I really SAW the people around me: a young dad with his bubbly, smiling baby, friends sharing a computer screen, looking to purchase a home (they were so excited!), a woman with the N95 mask, smiling underneath, kitchen workers making the bread: an older woman and a teen boy (a family-owned business?), friends looking to plan their day (they did a few second meditation in line right front of me, also to tune in) and the list goes on. A man dressed in motorcycle gear walked in and might have seemed intimidating (sorry to stereotype, owning my biases here). NOPE, I let the assumption go. He made conversation with the other locals and talked about how much he enjoyed the travels on the bike. The walls were filled with locally made products, local artwork and down to the smallest detail, there was something to enjoy at every turn, if you just paid attention.

Next came the drive home. Gorgeous weather, a mountain drive winding past rivers, peaking wildflowers, and expansive, and majestic views. I turned on the radio and stumbled across some music that brought me back to college. I listened to it all the way home and actually welled up in tears because it was so beautiful, and brought such happy memories. But here’s the thing: I’ve done this drive many times before. No doubt it’s gorgeous. Many times in the past though, I’ve looked off the edge of the drop-offs around the mountain curves, considering the effects of one wrong move. I’ve scrolled mindlessly through the endless amounts of radio channels I have available to me. I was living mindlessly in fear, but today I changed my perspective. This time was different. This time I was tuned in, and it was incredible.

One reference: I high school, I read this book and highlighted my favorites. Twice. It can help you with the process of tuning in to the little things and finding joy in small moments.

Effecting Positive Change: Independence Day Part 2

Ever since I wrote the blog post on July 4, I have been thinking about the words I wrote, and how I could explain my thoughts more clearly. In summary, I said that rage is not the answer to effect change. I know I can do better. The thing that is bothering me is that I said a lot more “don’ts” than “do’s”. Don’t be full of rage, don’t have resentment, and so on. I provided some suggestions for including more positivity in our daily interactions, but for my friends who are tired of the state of the world, I provided no concrete information from credible sources on how to effect change while still remaining positive. How can we change policy? How can we impact legislation? How can we change a person’s mind? Is that even possible? These are the questions that I keep asking myself, so I decided to do some research. Surely someone smarter than me has a good answer to this question.

Here’s what I found:

Use data. Numbers and money can sway opinions. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Beyond data: Find the human story. Learn and demonstrate the downstream effects. If a decision maker or politician can see the real effects of their decisions, they’re likely to consider alternate perspectives. I know this to be true from experience.

Research the heck out of it. Know both sides. I mean really know both sides. Find credible publications, research studies, and expert opinion. Watch CNN, MSNBC, Fox, Local news, etc. Read, listen to podcasts, whatever you can do to get educated. Seek out what makes you uncomfortable. Listen to, and hear it all. When you are knowledgeable about all aspects of an issue, you can speak confidently with anyone. You’ll understand their perspective better, and you can almost guarantee they’ll respect you more. Question your own views and consider how you can be more open and expand your views. Consider your own biases. Be honest! Research the history, and learn what has worked in the past and what hasn’t. Get familiar with the legislative process. Be consistent and patient. Don’t reinvent the wheel, but do get creative. Or heck, maybe do reinvent the wheel!

In case you did not see this commercial, it’s worth the 4-minute watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etIqln7vT4w I’m not trying to sell beer :), just share the incredible value of people talking to people.

Participatory action is key. Learn, engage, and vote. Be in conversation with all stakeholders. Appreciate others’ points of view. Look at barriers as opportunities, and areas for growth. Rather than assuming a black and white or /yes or no answer, consider possibilities, and options and constantly ask “what if”, “why” and “why not”? Brainstorm with people! Be engaged, show up, and participate in public comment, meetings, boards, and volunteer organizations. The opportunities are endless. Consider your day-to-day life and actions. Where are you showing up and how can you do better? All of us have an opportunity to do better. The key is that we just keep trying.

Craft your message: Consistent, non-threatening education for your stakeholders or constituents. Offer positive solutions, and include how this change will benefit them, their community, not just you. Get clear on what you want the outcome to be. You have to know what you are asking for before you ask. Be specific and concrete. Speak confidently. Be authentic. Be honest. If there is one thing I’ve learned is that we are all human. Whether it’s a rockstar or the President of the United States, it doesn’t matter. They were born and will die, just like us. Never pass up an opportunity to speak your truth out of fear or nerves. Consider this: If you are silent, will people miss out on an opportunity? Be hurt in some way? Then, regardless of nerves, you are obligated to speak up! Implementing that theory really helped me as an RN.

Lastly, thank you to those of you who expressed your rage, shared your opinions, and made your voice heard in the best way you know how. It inspired me to think about the state of the world, do my own learning, be better, and consider a path forward. Thank you for being brave.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

References:

https://prosperitynow.org/putting-prosperity-within-reach-how-do-i-advocate-for-policy-change

6 Ways to Advocate for Policy Change

https://givingcompass.org/article/6-ways-to-advocate-for-policy-change

https://theconversation.com/want-to-change-federal-policies-heres-how-83919

https://leg.colorado.gov/content/citizens-guide-effective-legislative-participation

I welcome any other ideas, resources, and feedback, so please share!

On being “All-In”

Y’all!! (Sorry, married to a Texan). This one is important!

For reasons I’ll spare you for the sake of brevity, I have been laser-focused on tuning in to what matters to me and trying to show up fully in my interactions. This looks like saying yes when you mean it, saying no when you mean it, and then being totally committed and “all-in” when a decision is made. No embarrassment, no self-judgment, total honesty, total vulnerability, and total attention to the present moment.

The only person’s opinion that matters is yours. Let the rest of it go.

Some may call this “being all in”, “being fully present”, “playing full out” “being fully committed”, “mindfulness”, “manifestation”, or what have you. To me, the nomenclature doesn’t matter, it’s the same intention with the same effect. And that effect is a total game changer! It will light you up! Sounds a little scary, right? I can assure you, that once you take this leap, “scary” will be reduced or vanish entirely. Like other concepts I’ve shared, I am not perfect at this. At all. But, when I’ve given it a true and honest effort, it is like my whole entire world has changed for the better. There is nothing but possibility.

First, let me be clear. I did not make this up. There are brilliant thought leaders and researchers who have shared this information with the world. Martha Beck, Wayne Dyer, and Byron Katie are just a few who’ve influenced my thinking on the subject in recent months, and there are many, many others. Here I’m combining their thoughts on “Integrity”, “Intention”, and “Loving What is”. In my view, their concepts are quite similar. I’ll share my view of the common themes and how to accomplish being “all-in”.

How? First and probably most importantly TUNE IN. Tune in to you. Get real about what you want and don’t want. Does it align with your values? What are your values? If you can’t answer that question, take some time to explore them. For me, if it feels right, really right, it aligns with my values. I ask myself, is this something that I want? Or something I am supposed to want? Or something I think others think I should want? If the answer is “nope, this is all me“, then it’s the right answer. Period. Pay attention to how you move through the day. Are you on autopilot? Or are you making conscious decisions by tuning in? You’ll be fascinated by what you find.

Second, listen to the information you receive. What is it telling you? How might it inform your choices? Pay deep attention to that information. Are you moving through the world because of “should’s” or other reasons? Are you having negative thoughts? If so, are those thoughts true? Or some version of the truth? Be honest. What if you changed your perspective? How does that impact the information you receive. Once you identify your soul’s desire, your purpose, and start letting it guide you, your world will truly change.

Third: Act. Trust that the information you’ve tuned into will take you in the right direction. Ask yourself, “what would I do if the possibilities were limitless”? Believe that they can become true. Thinking in this way is fun, not work, I promise! Then, act as if it’s already occurred, even if the goal or purpose isn’t totally clear. Continue to take small or large steps to make your dreams a reality. Even the tiniest step can have a huge impact. The third step is one that people often miss. They “wish” and “want” but never take the action. Instead, start believing and acting as if your dreams have already come true.

One important caveat: Do so fearlessly! Skip the “what if” and “what was”. They are unnecessary and often harmful. Just let it go. But how? One powerful technique I’ve used in my own life is to realize and believe that others genuinely want the best for me and don’t expect me to be perfect. Do you want the best for your friends? I bet you do. Do you expect perfection? Nope. Do you judge friends that follow their passions, even if it seems out of the norm? No way! You’re psyched for them! Thinking in that way allows me to be free, vulnerable, and, “all-in”. I’ve been able to sing loud and proud, take a deep dive during self-exploration work, be confident when making hard decisions, or be totally tuned in with friends or during a yoga class. The list could go on. Sounds like a good day in progress? Yes, it is!

Put all of that on repeat, even if in the smallest ways, and it has the power to totally transform your life.

Lastly, I’d like to share how my wise-beyond-her-years 13 -year old daughter has impacted me on this topic as well. In her version: “you just gotta go for it, and be all in, or you won’t enjoy it“. Smart girl.  

The Power of One Interaction: Hello Beautiful

I had a powerful experience with one incredible woman at a checkout counter. In one minute, it changed the course of my day and week.

Yesterday, I was out of town and shopping at a large chain store. My daughter and I were in the checkout line, and when it was our turn, got called up. “Next in line”… Like most people would, I anticipated a run-of-the-mill interaction where I would be asked if I found everything ok, might be asked if I wanted to open a credit card,would be rung up, and sent on my way in a minute or so.

Instead, I was greeted by a woman, around the same age as myself, with a thick Spanish accent, and she said “hello beautiful“. It caught me by surprise and my daughter and I instantly started smiling. She joked with us, and although I couldn’t understand everything she said (some with an accent and some in Spanish), we laughed and smiled the whole time. She was enjoying her work, and her small interactions, and was certainly making my day better. As I was completing the payment, my daughter walked away. The woman said to her something like, “wait a minute mija, you be nice to your mama”. We all laughed and smiled again. I said, “thank you for calling me beautiful, that made my day”! She said without pause, “All mamas are beautiful“.

I had an instant and deep knowing. Those four words meant: “I see you”, “I appreciate you”, “You, mama, give of yourself selflessly and you are appreciated”. She didn’t have to ask if this was my daughter. She didn’t start with a pleasantry like, “how are you today”? She didn’t even have to speak the same language. She just knew, appreciated , and acknowledged.

This one-minute interaction changed my whole day. In fact, I shared the story with a friend the next day, and I believe it changed her day too. She got it. She felt it. She loved it. She said, yep, “women empowering women”. I think that’s true, but believe it goes beyond. Its people empowering people through simple acts of kindness. There is such a huge ripple effect that comes from small and simple words of kindness. You never know how one simple gesture, or one kind word might impact another human.

So today: I challenge you, and I challenge me, to metaphorically say “hello beautiful”. Pick just one person, or two or three. Someone you know, or even better, someone you don’t. Make someone’s day. Be surprising, be authentic and be kind. I believe this is how we can change the world.

Independence Day 2022

Today is an interesting day, full of varying emotions about the state of our country. Personally, I have had a beautiful day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. For others, they are “full of rage”, “refuse to celebrate” and so on. The current state of our country is, without a doubt, tumultuous. We are a divided people, right vs left, me vs. you, right vs. wrong. There are so many things going on right now that just don’t make sense: mass shootings (and one today), guns out of control, mental health is poor for so many, and a recent Roe v. Wade reversal that has so many outraged. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way happy about any of these things. It saddens me to know that I grew up in the “land of the free” and the “best country on earth” which is debatably neither at this point.

The American Flag: What does this even mean anymore? Somehow, some way, this is now a symbol of conservative, right wing, Trump voters, I am not sure how that happened? To me, I still want to see the flag as a symbol of the beautiful (yes, flawed) country I live in. I may not believe that anymore, but I am trying.

I’m going to be really honest about why I chose to write this. Damn social media! Our family took a beautiful hike today. Weather: perfect. Wildflowers: amazing! Kid’s attitudes: pretty darn good! A rare time that all four of us were together, and out enjoying our “backyard”. I came home, shared the pics, and titled it “I love where I live part 2. Happy 4th y’all”! Within a few minutes, I came upon other perspectives, those who are outraged and refuse to celebrate today. In the name of not being judged, or coming across as “right” (which I am not, by the way) or “insensitive to the state of injustice in our country”, I quickly changed “Happy 4th y’all” to “have a great day y’all”. And as I sit here, I worry that saying “I love where I live” will be perceived to mean, “I love our country, vote Trump!” or something like that. Isn’t that sad?? Why do I think that way?? What I really mean is: Colorado is a beautiful place to live and play and I feel lucky to enjoy it today. Yet on social media, perceptions are through the reader’s lens and are often skewed because of it. Me included!

Here’s my perspective on the state of the world today, and how I’m choosing to approach it. Yep, things are undeniably in turmoil. Other countries do not look to as the greatest anymore. Friends, I see you and your passion and I respect you for it. And for your courage to put yourself out there with your opinions. However, I do not think rage is the answer. I think it is possible to be an activist, passionate about rights, and not full of hate. Why? Because that serves to put more negativity into the world. Can we stay positive, raise the collective vibration and still make a change? I believe we can… Lastly, holding rage tends to hurt one person the most: the enraged person. I ask you this: Does holding rage make you feel better? Do you think you accomplish more because of it? Or is there another way? I recognize that this sounds sarcastic, but I assure you it is not. I am asking you to consider another perspective. How is the rage impacting you, personally? If the answer goes something like: I am mad, anxious, fearful, stressed, sleepless, lost, helpless, numbing… I urge you to reconsider. Do something good for the world and for you.

Today I ask: Can we appreciate and love one another? Can we seek out the positive in our daily lives? Can we actively observe when we are having negative thoughts and try to let them go? Can we infuse positive energy into our interactions? A tall order, maybe. Am I perfect or even good at this? Nope. But I’m trying. I’m a flawed human who is willing to learn and grow, and my friends that is all I want for you too! If we see the world as a terrible place, then that is what the world shows us. If we see the world as amazing, then beauty is shown to us at every turn. I am not naive enough to think there isn’t hate, atrocities, or horrific things occurring in the world. I am simply asking that we collectively seek the beauty in it too.

“Having resentment against someone is like drinking poison and thinking it will kill your enemy.”

― Nelson Mandela